We picked the UK as a starting point for our adventure for a couple reasons. It’s the home base for the transition movement (a social movement that attempts to reduce energy use and re-localize more of regional and neighborhood economic life) which we hope to see in action, and we thought that for a first stop it would be good to take language barriers off the table. Third, we thought that as far as working outside was concerned, the climate would be cooler in England than in the Southern Mediterranean. While the jury is still out on the first two reasons, the third has certainly come true, though with much more fury and dampness than we imagined (the Ides of June? Could that be a thing?). We’ve learned firsthand why the English will find any excuse to put on a pot of tea—as with so many local customs, they seem a bit arbitrary until you’re there. Apparently we’ve also quickly picked up the custom of complaining about the weather. Sigh. What can you do.
While this kind of barometric bellyaching may be universal, it takes on a special significance when you come into more immediate contact with the land. This observation may come across as city-slicker naivety at it’s finest, but as with the indescribable pleasure of tea-warmed innards on this gray-slung coast, for me it’s been a discovery. Weather becomes the arbiter of both day-to-day life and longer-term planning—for one day, a heavy downpour may only mean a switch to semi-indoor work in the polytunnels, and an easier time getting the roots of the thistles out the day after, but now that it’s been near constant for the past two weeks (and looking to be on a third), it means there won’t be squash or basil come September. For our hosts, this is an annoyance, for those subsisting on their harvests, a travesty.
The distance, of course, that those of us whose food grows at the supermarket experience from this reality is a hard-fought privilege, and one that may be both frail and destructive. That, however, is a topic for another day.